Xian shi yue Tuning

As with most Chinese traditional and folk music, xian shi yue employs a scale of five tones.

The Chinese names and sol-fa syllables stand for the position of each tone in the scale rather than specific pitches. In the performance practice of xian shi yue, however, Teochiu musicians have established the pitch of gong, or do, as F.

In addition to the five tones shown above, two other tones are used as passing tones or to achieve modal changes within the basic pentatonic framework. The scale degrees, bian zhi, (raised 4), and bian gong (lowered 7 ), are called bianyin ("changing tones"). They are interchanged with jiao (3) and yu (6) respectively as ornamental tones in various modes. Xian shi yue thus accesses seven tones in performance, though only five at a time (score below). Other Chinese regional folk musics may also access seven tones. But the seven-tone scale used in xian shi yue differs by its prominent use of the two "changing tones" and the ornamentation with which these and other tones are executed.

In theory, the intonation of the two changing tones shown above fall at about three- fourths the distance of the whole tone interval between the pitches A and B (bianzhi), and between D and E (bian gong). In performance, these pitches vary, depending on melodic and modal contexts. A musician normally executes a vibrato on these two changing tones. The performer also makes slight variations in the pitches toward which these tones may tend, depending on such factors as the mode and whether the melody is ascending or descending when the tone occurs.

In a piece in the zhongsan zhongliu mode, for instance, the fourth degree, raised Bb, may be played slightly sharp, almost B-natural, in an ascending melodic line. It reverts back to the usual raised Bb again in a descending melodic line. In a piece in the huowu mode, the fourth degree becomes slightly flat, approaching Bb.

Mercedes DuJunco

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